Lewis and Clark County public health officials are warning of the "likely chance" measles could end up here.
While Montana has not had a confirmed case of measles since 1990, recent outbreaks in New York and Washington have caused health officials concern. The disease was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000 due to vaccination efforts, according to a county press release.
Vaccines for measles have been proven to be 97 percent effective, said Shelly Maag, Lewis and Clark County's public health nurse supervisor. "Measles are serious and they spread very easily."
Three percent of Lewis and Clark County schoolchildren are not fully vaccinated because of either medical issues or religious exemption.
Measles are caused by a respiratory virus that spreads through the air when a sick person coughs or sneezes. The disease is incredibly contagious — being in the same room as someone can spread the virus.
According to Lewis and Clark County Public Health, symptoms begin with a high fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Then a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out, starting at the head and spreading to the rest of the body. The disease can cause complications like pneumonia, swelling of the brain and even death.
Anyone who is concerned someone in their family might have measles should not rush to the emergency room.
“Call your doctor first so they can discuss your symptoms and your travel history and figure out how to see you in a way that doesn’t infect other people," Maag said. "The last thing you want to do is infect a whole emergency room full of sick and injured people.”